My issue with the modern NBA
I started following the NBA around the year 2000. I remember watching games from the Lakers vs. Pacers finals taped on VHS. The NBA was different back then. A lot. It was the post-Michael Jordan NBA and the pre-analytics NBA. It was also the pre-social media NBA. The league was different because society was different. There wasn't an endless stream of news, tweets, shorts, and podcasts on any NBA event. Sure, there were columns in newspapers and blogs, some radio and programs but that was about it. Games were the most important part.
I don't have data to support what I'm about to claim but I suspect that the majority of the people who follow the NBA don't even watch games. Maybe some highlights here and there. The majority of fans are fans of the NBA circus, of the constant media drama. But the constant drama, the constant media presence, it's a fundamental aspect of today's NBA.
The NBA is a private entity. It's a business and it's run as a business. Basketball is a sport, sure, but the business is not selling a sport. What the NBA is selling is an entertainment product and the goal is not for a team to win a title. The goal is to make money. And that is my fundamental issue with today's NBA.
At its core, the NBA is not different from Netflix or Spotify. They have a product they need to sell and they need to incentivize people to buy said product. The problem is that there's a finite amount of potential customers but stopping the growth is not an option. Not in today's society. And so what do you do? You increase prices, you include ads in places where previously there were none, and you make the core of your product worse because you need to do whatever you can to earn more.
If you compare a FIBA game with an NBA one, the difference is stark. Everything, in an NBA game, is sponsored. From the pre-game stats, to the jump ball, to the replays, to the halftime break. Everything is an opportunity to make more money. Hell the game itself has to stop fairly frequently for a few minutes to allow TVs to play ads.
At the same time though, players are resting more and more. They're making more money than ever, a lot more, by playing fewer games. The reasoning is that they want to preserve their bodies and be ready for the games that matter late in the season. They also want to prolong their careers. Do we really need players to have 25-year-long careers? I say no but the fuck do I know. But what's weird about this arrangement is the conflict between the sport and the entertainment. People pay money to watch players play. But players want to play less and rest more. And everyone seems to be okay with this reasoning because the goal is to win a title after all. Is it though? I'm not so sure anymore.
Following the NBA has turned from fun to incredibly annoying. At least for me.